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Booking BAP: A $5,000 Trip to Europe for $238 & Points!

My free digs in Amsterdam

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In a few weeks, I’ll be in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague for the first time. I am calling this trip “BAP” (after the 3 cities).

This is the trip I booked waaay back in August 2016 for biz class seats with Etihad miles. At the time, I paid ~37,000 miles for round-trip seats from New York to Brussels on Brussels Airlines. Etihad has since raised the price to 88,000 miles – which can still be a good deal to Europe in Business.

That was about 9 months ago – the furthest out I’ve ever planned a trip. At the time, I figured I’d fill it in when the time came. Which is now.

brussels amsterdam prague

I’m coming for ya, Brussy

Here’s how I put together a $5,00+ week-long trip to Europe for $238 out of pocket.

Booking BAP (Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague)

1. To New York and back

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[False Alarm] Citi Card Apps No Longer Have 24 Month Language?

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Update: Not sure what’s going on but I see the 24-month language on some application pages. I’m wrong and nothing has changed. I got excited and jumped. Going to close this for now. Sorry for the false alarm! 

Just a quick post.

Citi has been limiting card sign-up bonuses per family of “brands” to every 24 months – with a clock that resets if you open OR close an account within that family. The 3 brands are:

  • American Airlines
  • Hilton
  • ThankYou points

So for example, if you opened or closed the Citi Hilton Reserve within the previous 24 months, you could NOT get the sign-up offer on the Citi Hilton no annual fee card. Period.

But it looks like that restriction has shifted:

citi 24 months

“New accounts only”

Now it says, “This offer valid for new accounts only.”

What does that mean?

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I’m Over Cashback Cards and Into Starwood Points

I like you now and I'll be sad when you leave

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There, I said it.

In 2013, I famously said (typed), “I don’t care about Starpoints.” At the time, my grievances were:

  • 1 point per $1 spent was too low of an earn rate
  • You have to spend so much to earn a meaningful reward
  • The earn rate with other hotel programs is better, so why bother with Starwood?
Starwood Points vs cashback

I like you now and I’ll be sad when you leave

But a lot has changed since then. The merger with Marriott opened a few cool new opportunities, like:

Nothing's fine I'm torn

Nothing’s fine I’m torn

And, I’ve been putting a non-bonused spend on my Amex Starwood card, to the chagrin of my previously beloved Fidelity Visa. (Although I still use the mess out of my Discover it card cuz I want that sweet Dublin!)

In fact, I think I’m…. over cashback cards. For now, at least.

Drinking the Starpoints Kool-Aid

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Don’t Make This Mistake With Sapphire Reserve & Prestige Travel Credits

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Update 2/6/17: So… the entire premise of this post is incorrect. I flubbed this one, guys.

Because you get 2 credits and 1 charge so in the end, you really do get to keep your credit. My mind has been hazy this week and I apologize for the incorrect information, though it was well-intentioned guidance. Anyhoo, nothing to see here.

Huge thanks to my readers who pointed out my mistake in a guiding and gentle way. It means a lot to me – kind of super emotionally sensitive right now. You guys really are the best.


Oy. I had a slip-up with my Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 annual travel credit last week. Luckily, it wasn’t that bad.

But here’s a PSA of what NOT to do.

annual travel credit

If you get a refund, you essentially lose your credit!

I booked a round-trip award flight on Southwest with my Sapphire Reserve. The taxes were $11.20.

Immediately after, I thought it better to have the trip as 2 one-ways so could lock in the price if plans didn’t change. Or have the option to change either (or both) legs down the road if needed. So that was another $11.20.

When I canceled the first ticket, I had the option to get a refund or store the money in my Southwest bank. I didn’t think it through, and impulsively hit “Refund.” Not good.

A couple of days later when the charges and credits hit, I realized what I’d done. I did get the $11.20 refund. But I lost $11.20 of my travel credit. It’s not a huge loss, but what if it was an entire paid flight? 

A similar thing almost happened to me again this week at a hotel!

Another time I messed up

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Review of My Free Stay at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Hyatt Zilara Cancun from above

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Ahoy, mateys! I have so much to tell you about – just back from a week of meetings in Austin.

I’ve been meaning to report on the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, so here goes.

I booked 3 nights with points in late January.

The flights were paid with Citi ThankYou points (which I’m always rolling in). And I charged the $55 round-trip airport transfer to my Chase Sapphire Reserve, which trigged part of the $300 annual travel credit. And because it’s an all-inclusive, food was covered (more on that in a future post!).

Hyatt Zilara Cancun from above

Hyatt Zilara Cancun from above

So flights, hotel, food, and transportation were all completely free. I did bring $100 in cash to leave as tips for the drivers, bartenders, servers, and housekeeping staff.

This trip would’ve cost north of $2,000 out of pocket.

But back to the hotel!

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Index

Arrival and check-in

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Citi Offering Instant Upgrades for Hilton Visa, but No Bonus

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This morning, I got an email from Citi with an offer to upgrade my no annual fee Citi Hilton Visa to a Citi Hilton Reserve with a $95 annual fee.

The email subject was, “Upgrading your card means enhanced benefits.” I was excited because I’ve never seen an offer from Citi like this. So I was hoping to score some bonus Hilton points in the process. But, all you get with this offer is “One Weekend Night Certificate Opportunity and Gold Status.”

upgrade citi hilton visa

Ya know, nah

Thanks but no thanks. This isn’t a good deal with no bonus points involved. But I’m glad Citi is trying new things.

I also don’t know if they’re sending out targeted offers with this card or others, so it’s worth checking your email and junk folder to see if anything is in there.

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Booked: 3 Free Nights at Hyatt Zilara Cancun With Points!

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What I like most about the points and miles hobby is setting a goal, then attaining it.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to stay at the all-inclusive and adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cancun. And in a few weeks, I’ll be there!

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Points

Coming for ya, Zilara!

I used 75,000 Hyatt points for a stay that would’ve cost over $1,900 out-of-pocket. Here’s how it came together.

Booking a Hyatt Zilara Cancun Points Award

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I Saved $3,000 With Citi Prestige Last Year (and Got a Retention Offer)

I still luh ya, but not *as* much

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My Citi Prestige card’s $450 annual fee recently posted. I will happily keep it for another year (if only to have Admirals Club access through the end of July 2017).

I’ve dutifully tracked the value I’ve gotten on the Citi Prestige by the Numbers page. But I want to dig into the numbers a little more.

citi prestige worth keeping

Sorry for the selfie, but I needed a pic for this post

I also got an retention offer to earn 7X Citi ThankYou points on $8,750 in spending on airfare, hotels, and travel agencies – which is fine because I book ALL my airfare on this card to take advantage of its industry-leading trip delay and cancelation insurance that kicks in after only THREE hours (better than Chase Sapphire Reserve and any personal Amex card).

Year One by the numbers

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The 4 Best Credit Cards for Holiday Season 2016

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It’s nearly mid-November, how’d that happen?

I’m gearing up for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, as I’m sure many of you are, too.

holiday 2016 best credit cards

Dear everyone I know, you might get a kitchen appliance. Love, H.

Here are my top picks for cards to use for gift shopping and travel this holiday season.

Holiday 2016 best credit cards

1. Chase Freedom

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Honest Review: Citi Hilton Visa 75,000 Point Offer

Entrance to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu

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It’s no secret I’m a Hilton fanboy. I lurve them because they make earning points a breeze. And they actually give you a healthy amount of points for staying at their hotels, unlike Hyatt and Starwood (!).

Are Hilton points inflated? Hell yeah. But so are the earning rates.

Entrance to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu

I loved using my Hilton points at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu last month

I’ve found good deals with Hilton points, and not because I looked a long time. They’re out there – as with any type of hotel points.

I love the 5th night free perk on award stays when you have any type of status.

And 75,000 Hilton points can be worth over $1,000, as we’ve seen before.

At a bare minimum, there’s no reason why you can’t get $400+ of value from 75,000 Hilton points. Considering the card has no annual fee (and is therefore free to keep), that’s a great deal – and a decent sign-up bonus.

The short

A handy little card with a decent sign-up bonus, if you have a Hilton stay in mind.

The long

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Honest Review: Citi Prestige 40,000 Point Offer

Goodbye

Oh, Citi Prestige. How prestigious you once made me feel. You’re probably still my favorite card overall, but your shine has tarnished since I fell for you in November 2015.

Since then, you’ve returned well over $2,000 in value for me. And you’re still giving.

citi prestige review

My lagan love, Citi Prestige

But, cruel winter awaits. As of July 23rd, 2017, you can’t have my heart any more. I’ll have to take it back. You’re going to change.

Like a trojan horse, Chase unleashed the Chase Sapphire Reserve which now blows you out of the water.

Citi, you were competing so well. What happened? (My guess is they were losing too much dinero.)

The short

A once-great card that’s now only worth it if you have a lot of paid hotel stays of 4+ nights.

The long

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Uber Alternatives in Austin: Ride Austin and Fasten

For my next trick, I will put up a post from the city I’m currently visiting lol.

I got to Austin on Sunday, and decided to meet up with a friend for drinks downtown.

No problem, I’ll Uber down, a 15-minute ride.

Tips from my friend Jason

Tips from my friend Jason

He gave me two tips: Ride Austin and Fasten.

Ride Austin

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